In the event that you are trying to pinpoint in your mind the things you should remember about Avery Brundage, the strong-faced gentleman pictured on the opposite page, he is the black villain who, in his 24-year reign as president of the U.S. Olympic Association, threw Swimmer Eleanor Holm off the 1936 U.S. Olympic team in midocean for sipping champagne, who cold-heartedly took a new automobile away from the pretty Canadian figure skater, Barbara Ann Scott, who ruthlessly declared Jesse Owens a professional, who peremptorily suspended Babe Didrikson, who publicly chastised Charley Paddock, who refused to allow European countries to reimburse their athletes for the regular salaries they lost when they were away from their jobs competing at the Olympic Games. You may have heard him described as Slavery Avery, a man with a discus where his heart should be, or as a man who looks comfortable in a high, stiff collar, or as a man wearing a slightly stuffed shirt.
Whatever you've heard or read over the years about Avery Brundage, the chances are excellent that your present opinion of him is not one of unabashed adoration and that your emotional reaction to the sight of his picture or the sound of his name does not, by a goodly margin, come up to the level of even mild affection. In short, Avery Brundage is not very, very popular.
"I am aware of this," Brundage said recently in Chicago, "but I am not greatly disturbed by it."
The implacable Mr. Brundage, who is now the most powerful man in sport, in 1952 became president of the International Olympic Committee, a position which actually has no counterpart in the world but would be roughly analagous to that of president of the United Nations, if there were such a powerful office in the U.N., and if the U.N. exercised absolute power over world affairs.
He was sitting sideways to his desk, looking out the window of his 18th floor office in the La Salle Hotel, his hands comfortably clasped over his abdomen, his thumbs tapping noiselessly together.
Abruptly, he spun his brown-leather swivel chair back to his broad, leather-inlaid desk and looked up truculently, his lips pursed.
"Why should I be?" he demanded. "A newspaperman wakes up in the morning with a headache—" He paused, lowered his head slightly and looked out over the top of his glasses, his lips relaxing into a small, amused smile. "Or a hangover." He paused again, to let that sink in, and then went on: "and he has a story to write. What's easier to write than a story about something that so-and-so Avery Brundage has done?"
He turned again to the window, but as he did he waved his immense hand at a stack of scrapbooks piled haphazardly on his desk and at others on a nearby table and still others in disarray on the floor.
"All those things are there. But there are other things, too. Things that mean something to a man. The opinions of people whose opinions he respects. Here."
He arose and came around the desk, a big man, big through the chest, big through the shoulders, a big head, a big jaw, big hands, big fingers. And yet he moved lightly and gracefully, like an athlete, not at all the way a man of 68 is supposed to move.